14th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Power Of God Is Manifested Through Weakness.”
The Church as a ‘Prophet of God’ rejoices in the spirit of prophecy, even though the exercise of that charism does not bring her any honour from the world. It is exercised in weakness.
The first reading describes the vocation of the prophet Ezekiel. He was a simple man, like any other common mortal man. What he did was not due to his ability, but to the power of the word of God that is communicated faithfully.
The second reading is even clearer: Paul states that the power of God always manifests itself through weak instruments.
The Gospel shows the reactions of the people of Nazareth because they failed to understand the ways of God, and, therefore, could not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Apocalyptic writing is mysterious by design. Visions and oracles – seeing things that most people don’t see, hearing what most people don’t hear, and such things are the prophet’s domain. But apocalyptic goes beyond what we might call normal prophecy into symbolic language. Though the words are audible, they produce the feel of “speech in tongues.” This hidden speech has to be translated for it to be discernible. Ezekiel has many such experiences, and his book is full of beating wings, spinning wheels and fantastic creatures. In each of these encounters, he feels the movement of God’s Spirit within him and he makes the move from apocalypse to revelation, from experiencing the unseen to speaking God’s word fearlessly. We have been taught that all the baptized receive the Spirit and become prophets. But who and what is a prophet? The first reading describes such a person. The story of the call of Ezekiel tells us what characterizes the mission of the prophet.
The Book of Ezekiel begins with a vision of God, arguably the most awesome to all the prophets, God spoke to Ezekiel and gave him his commission. He made him his messenger and gave him his Spirit, but he did not promise Ezekiel success. His mission was to preach to a defiant people who would invariably ignore the message of God. The people to whom the prophet is sent are rebellious even as their ancestors were. They are hard-hearted and obstinate. They may or may not heed what God says to them through his prophet. God does not send prophets because people are submissive and obedient. God sends prophets to rescue his people from their self-destruction and to save them from their sinful ways.
Most prophets were men, and that is why we will talk of men prophets. The same duties were asked of the women prophets mentioned in the Bible. A prophet is first of all a person called by God. The prophet is not an angel; he is not a person endowed with special and mysterious faculties. His authority to speak in the name of God does not come from his extraordinary ability; it comes from having been chosen and called by the voice of the Lord. A prophet called by God has a mission to accomplish. He is not asked to work miracles, to foretell the future, or to do strange things. God expects him to do just one thing: to broadcast his word. God does not communicate directly to his people, and to speak to them he uses the mouths of the prophets. Whoever is entrusted with this task must first of all be able to listen with great attention to what God tells one in the depth of one’s heart, one then must announce faithfully what one has heard, without changing a thing, without adding anything of one’s own.
To whom is the prophet sent? To certain people or persons who might be well disposed or hostile and stubborn. The prophet is not to worry about the outcome of his mission. God tells Ezekiel: “Whether they listen or not, this tribe of rebels will know there is a prophet among them”.
The Old Testament is linked to the Sunday Gospel by two themes. The first is the theme of ‘prophesy’. The second is the theme of ‘rejection’. Like Ezekiel, Jesus was a prophet and was fully aware of his prophetic calling. In the Gospel, it is Jesus who applies the term ‘prophet’ to himself. Jesus was sent to speak to the people with the voice of God, but like the other prophets he was not received with openness and joy.
Every baptized person has a prophetic vocation: all are called to announce to their brothers and sisters the Word of God. They must announce the Gospel faithfully, by word and example, to their children, neighbours, and work colleagues and to the brothers and sisters of their community. In order to be able to do this, one must first listen carefully and devoutly to the word of God, to let it penetrate the inner-most recesses of one’s heart. One must proclaim it courageously without changing it, even if the listeners feel disturbed or uneasy.
The Psalm is a hymn of lamentation, a prayer to God for mercy in a time of trouble, made in a spirit of confidence and trust. The picture is that of an unfaithful servant looking for forgiveness from his master.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
Paul is no stranger to revelation himself. Though Paul does not claim to be a prophet, he has had a vision or two that turned his life around like a top. Scholars have spent time making educated guesses about Paul’s “angel of Satan” and what his “thorn in the flesh” might have been. Was it an illness? Was it lust? Was it deformity or spiritual imperfection?
What is more valuable to consider, perhaps, is our own ‘thorn in the flesh’, the thing that keeps us from developing spiritual pride. People are imperfect in many minor ways but we all know the one thing that causes us particular problems. It could be anger, the lack of forgiveness, prejudice, greed or fear, or perhaps something else known to you alone? Paul’s experience tells us that God seeks to use the very thing that tries to crush us as an instrument of grace. Then we will know, as Paul did, how God makes the powerless one strong.
In today’s Gospel Jesus goes home with his disciples. Jesus has been teaching all over Galilee and outside it but he has not yet taught in his hometown, Nazareth. It is the Sabbath, and he teaches in the synagogue. The people are astonished at his teaching just as they were in Capernaum but they refused to accept him because they know him and his family and how he grew up among them and how he worked as a carpenter. Sadly, Jesus is perceived by those who know him as a craftsmen and nothing more. They question the origin of his wisdom and his wonderful deeds. They probably witnessed some of them. However, they cannot see beyond the person they know to discern the presence of God. Thus, they cannot hear the message about the kingdom of God that Jesus brings to them.
The Spirit was in him. That was not the issue. Yet Jesus could not do much in the neighbourhood of Nazareth. A few who were sick enough to need to believe in his miracles were cured but Jesus was so distressed by the lack of faith, he stuck to his teaching. Their lack of faith amazes Jesus and prevents him from working any miracles. For them Jesus is merely human, merely a carpenter.
There is reciprocal relationship between the giver of grace and the receiver. It is like trying to sow a garden on cement. The seeds just bounce off and dry up. No matter how persistent the sower, the seed is not received. So Jesus taught in the villages surrounding Nazareth instead, preparing the ground for sowing. When he found faces lit up in the message they received, he would know it was time for planting again.
Today’s Gospel also speaks of the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus. These are not to be understood as siblings of the same father and mother. Just as among many African tribes, cousins are commonly referred to brothers and sisters, among the Jews brother and sister included more than those born from the same womb. Because of one faith, we too can say that we are called to be brothers and sisters in Christ. When we pray to God we address “Him” as “Our Father” and never as “My Father”! The conviction is that in Christ, Christians have become members of the same family. We are all part of the family of God. Anything that divides us must be shunned.
For Jesus to be rejected at a national level might have been expected, but he could expect to find understanding in his family. He does not. It can happen today that we reject the prophets among us because of their familiarity. We accept things told to us by strangers more than we would if our own friends or close relatives told us. Yet it is through the familiar that God enters our world and our lives. True faith recognizes and accepts that God speaks to us through people with whom we are quite familiar.
We are also called by our baptism to imitate Christ, the Prophet of the New Covenant. The prophet’s mission is to denounce what is wrong in society, to announce the message of conversion and repentance, of hope and of salvation. Living fully this vocation will demand of us a readiness to accept the misunderstanding of those upon whom we might naturally count as friends and family.
How often do we present ourselves as hard ground, and lose the seeds Jesus has given us? How often has miracles passed us by, as we question the source of grace?
Keep on the lookout for Jesus. He may be coming to town in the person of someone you thought you knew. He’s so close; you may very well miss him.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … God sends prophets to rescue his people from self-destruction and to save them from the suffering caused by their sinful ways. The chosen people of God were rebellious just as their ancestors were. They were obstinate and hard-hearted. The Scriptures and the Gospel still today echo out the word of God through the prophets, the evangelists and in the homilies at Mass. The message of salvation is to those who wish to hear it. How receptive and obedient are we to God’s message? Do we reject it because it makes us feel uncomfortable or because of our stubbornness and hardness of hearts?
Mon. … Our baptism makes us sons and daughters of God and as such we have become part of God’s family. We are called upon to announce to those who have strayed and who are lost the ‘Good News’ to all those who want to hear it and to those who seem to reject it. Are we up to this thankless but life-saving task?
Tues.… This life-saving task requires us to spend time with God and listen with great attention to what God is telling us in the depth of our hearts. We must pray for his grace to give us the courage and strength to proclaim his word without changing it, even if our listeners feel disturbed or uneasy. God uses the weak to announce the most powerful message of all, the message of love and salvation. We joyfully proclaim the Word, the Spirit will do the rest in his own time.
Wed. … St. Paul boasted gladly of his weakness, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with him. We all have demons and adversaries, afflictions and infirmities that will hinder our missionary efforts. Like Paul let these remind us of our human weaknesses lest we become too proud or complacent regarding the gifts God has given us. Allow God to change our weakness into power. The Power of Love!
Thurs. … How reciprocal is our relationship with Jesus, the giver of graces and blessings? Are our hearts filled with so much malice and spite, selfishness, revenge and hatred that it makes it virtually impossible to receive the seed no matter how persistent the “Sower”? How often do we present ourselves as hard ground and lose the seeds Jesus has given us?
Frid. … We need to keep a lookout for Jesus, his saving message for us may be in one of ‘these least brothers and sisters of his’ in the person of someone you thought you knew. We must be careful not to reject the prophets among us because of their familiarity. We would be repeating the same foolish mistake of the people of Nazareth. How often has miracles passed us by, because we question the source of grace? The source of grace can only come from God, not the messenger!
Sat. … Jesus’ difficulties among his own community in Nazareth could reflect the difficulties we may encounter when spreading the ‘Good News’ among our own friends and families. Jesus had a time constraint; he had only 3 years to complete his mission and reluctantly he had to move on. We have a lifetime at our disposal. We need to persevere in prayer and in faith.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father Almighty, today we reflect on our prophetic mission in spreading the Good News. We pray for Your grace to persevere in faith no matter what difficulties we may encounter.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.